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  1. The San Francisco Giants drafted Joe Nathan in 1995 from State University of New York at Stony Brook. He was only the second player ever taken from his school, and he was initially drafted as a shortstop. Shoulder surgery forced him to miss the entire 1996 season, and it pushed him to the mound. He spent his first three professional seasons as a starter in the Giants organization, but he struggled with ERAs over 6.00 at Double-A and over 5.50 at Triple-A. It was hardly the perfect start to a Hall of Fame resume. Even with his struggles, the Giants pushed him to the big leagues in 1999. He’d bounce between the majors and the minors for multiple seasons. In his first three big-league seasons, he posted a 4.61 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in 187 1/3 innings. Nathan wasn’t successful as a starter, so the Giants moved him to the bullpen at age-28. Entering the 2003 season, Baseball Prospectus said, “Nathan continued his comeback from shoulder surgery in 2000, with a year that was impressive only relative to the year before. He was never a great prospect, even before the shoulder woes, but he could be a serviceable innings-eater in middle relief.” During the 2003 season, he made 78 relief appearances and posted a 2.96 ERA with a 1.06 WHIP and 83 strikeouts in 79 innings. It was a marked improvement, and the Minnesota Twins took notice. The Twins acquired Nathan In one of the most famous trades in team history as he was included with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski was an All-Star catcher in the prime of his career with multiple years of team control. Nathan, Liriano, and Bonser all had questions surrounding their injury history and previous performance, so it wasn’t initially as lopsided of a trade as it looks in retrospect. Following the trade, Nathan immediately became one of baseball’s best closers. He was a six-time All-Star, and he twice finished in the top-five of the AL Cy Young Award voting. He topped the 30-save mark in nine seasons, including accumulating 40 or more saves in four seasons. Among pitchers with at least 900 innings pitched, only Billy Wagner and Nolan Ryan have a lower hits per nine innings ratio. Unfortunately for Nathan, relief pitchers are significantly underrepresented in Cooperstown. The current HOF relievers are Dennis Eckersley, Mariano Rivera, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Trevor Hoffman, and Rollie Fingers. Billy Wagner is one player currently on the ballot that might be paving the way for Nathan to be enshrined. Last year, Wagner received 46.4% of the vote, up from the 10.5% he received back in 2017, his first year on the ballot. Nathan compares well to Wagner and other relievers already elected to the Hall. According to JAWS, he ranks better than Sutter, Wagner, and Hoffman. FanGraphs writer and Hall of Fame expert Jay Jaffe developed the JAWS system, but he prefers a different method for measuring relievers. Nathan ranks in the top-7 all-time relief pitchers using a hybrid average of WAR, WPA, and situational or context-neutral wins (WPA/LI). Before his age-29 season, Nathan had failed as a shortstop and a starting pitcher. From that point forward, he was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball history. His resume alone should put him into the Cooperstown conversation. Nathan will have an uphill climb to enshrinement, but relievers should have a better chance in the years ahead. Do you think he has a strong enough case for Cooperstown? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — David Ortiz MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. There are quite a few of these challenge trades in fairly recent Twins history, but this current Twins front office really hasn’t explored this avenue. The Kenta Maeda deal was close, but Brusdar Graterol only had 10 big league appearances to his credit. He was still a prospect. Possibly the LaMonte Wade Jr. trade qualifies as a minor challenge trade, as he had 113 plate appearances and Shaun Anderson had 46 career games pitched at the time of the swap. Considering how that one went, maybe it’s good there haven’t been more challenge trades of late … These deals are risky, but when a team has a surplus or is motivated to make room at the MLB level for a younger player they can make sense. With Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez already in the third base/second base equation and Jose Miranda waiting in the wings, this current Twins roster could be ripe for a challenge trade. There’s another possible option but I don’t want to ruin your day quite yet. Let’s take a look back at some of these types of deals from past Twins seasons. All of the trades below were completed during the offseason and included established MLB regulars on both sides of the deal. Nov. 14, 2003: A.J. Pierzynski traded to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser We’re starting out this list on a high note. One of the ironic elements to this deal is part of its motivation backfired to a degree. In moving AJ Pierzynski, the Twins were making room behind the plate for 20-year-old Joe Mauer. He ended up playing just 35 games in 2004 due to injuries and Henry Blanco ended up as the primary catcher. The Twins still won 92 games that year in part due to Joe Nathan saving 44 games. He had 128 MLB games to his credit at the time of this deal. We’re focusing on the MLB pieces, but I’d say the prospect side of this package also worked out pretty darn nicely for the Twins. Dec. 3, 2003: Eric Milton traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto and Bobby Korecky Milton was only a year away from free agency and Carlos Silva had pitched 130 games for the Phillies. Though he only had one career start prior to the trade, Silva was actually a better rotation piece than Milton right out the gate. I’d say that worked out pretty well. Toss in Punto, who also had some MLB experience at the time of the trade (though only 111 plate appearances) and this one was also a success. Kinda nuts that after back-to-back division championships the Twins made these two big trades and took the central again in ‘04. Nov. 28, 2007: Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza and Eddie Morlan to the Tampa Bay Rays for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie This was a pretty crazy trade under new GM Bill Smith. A starting shortstop and budding rotation piece for the former No. 1 overall pick and reigning runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting. Plus Brendan Harris and all of his Brendon Harris-ness! This was an incredible trade … for the Rays. They went from 96 losses to 97 wins and a World Series appearance. Delmon had a great 2010 season with the Twins but was dealt away the next year after fizzling out. Nov. 6, 2009: Carlos Gomez traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for J.J. Hardy Gomez went from centerpiece of the Johan Santana deal to trade bait in just two seasons. If you thought that tenure was short, Hardy only lasted one season in Minnesota before being dealt to Baltimore. Both players found much more success with their new orgs than they had in Minnesota. Man, the Twins made a lot of trades back during this time. Dec. 6, 2012: Ben Revere traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Vance Worley and Trevor May Terry Ryan was back in the GM role and cleared room for another former first-round pick. The Twins traded both Revere and Denard Span that offseason to open the door for Aaron Hicks in center field. Worley made 46 starts for the Phillies prior to the trade. His Twins tenure was, uh, less impressive. May ended up developing into a nice bullpen piece, of course, but Hicks struggled to take advantage of his opportunity. Speaking of which ... Nov. 11, 2015: Aaron Hicks traded to the New York Yankees for John Ryan Murphy The hope was Murphy would be the long-term solution behind the plate. He was not. I guess I don’t really remember the motivation to move Hicks. Byron Buxton missed most of the previous season and started the year in Double-A, so it was a bit premature to make room for him. The Twins opened the season with Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson platooning in center. Ugh. Looking back, it’s kinda funny how many of these deals revolved around the center field position. I know most Twins fans don’t want to think about this, but it’s time to ruin your day. There’s a possibility of a Buxton challenge trade this winter. We all know it, but most of us don’t want to acknowledge it. I’m on team Pay Byron, but if they don’t extend him … who knows? What do you think? Should the Twins try to pull off a challenge trade this offseason?
  3. Many relief pitchers can be successful by relying on two to three pitches. For instance, Taylor Rogers has found a lot of success at the big-league level by throwing a two-pitch mix with his fastball and a slider. Relievers can use their best pitches, because they don’t have to worry about facing a hitter multiple times in the same game. Some pitchers are forced to adjust their repertoire if they aren’t finding success. Jorge Alcalá was part of one of the biggest trades under the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime. He came to the Twins along with Gilberto Celestino as part of the Ryan Pressly deal. At the time of here is what Baseball America said, “Alcalá has a plus-plus fastball, but there are times as a starter where he gears down to try to maintain his stamina. At his best, he’s reached triple digits in the past. There are days when Alcalá looks like a one-pitch pitcher trying to start, but seen on the right days, he has the makings of being a devastating bullpen option.” Alcalá has shown flashes on turning into a devastating bullpen option, but lefties have given him headaches during his big-league career. Entering play on Wednesday, left-handed hitters had posted a .306/.397/.629 (1.026) slash-line when facing Alcalá. Compare that to the .389 OPS righties had compiled against him and it’s easy to see that something was going to have to change if he was going to progress to being used in more high leverage situations. During his big-league tenure, Alcalá has focused on throwing a fastball and a slider and since that hadn’t worked against lefties, the Twins encouraged him to work on his changeup. He threw the pitch to lefties 24 times during the 2020 season and held them to a .125 BA and a .250 SLG. His changeup breaks down and in on lefties which can make it a tough pitch to square up if he is locating it. “(Alcalá is) making adjustments,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s going out there and figuring out that sometimes facing left-handed hitters as a whole and facing left-handers and right-handers is going to be different, and you’re going to have to have — I end up calling them tricks, sometimes, but you end up coming to have a different approach.” Alcalá is going to have to keep working with the pitch and he knows the importance of what it will mean for the future of his career. “What you practice is the result you get,” Alcalá told reporters through an interpreter. “If it’s working for me in the bullpen or in practice, I think it’s going to work for me during the game. That’s my mindset. His changeup is still a work in progress, but it is the pitch that might transform him from middle reliever into a dominant late-inning option. Do you think one pitch can make the difference for Alcalá? Leave a COMMENT and star the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Case for Induction Even with the late start to his career, Nathan pitched into his 40s while making six All-Star teams. He accumulated six seasons with an ERA under 2.00 with a career 9.5 SO/9. One of the biggest stats attached to Hall of Fame relievers is saves and he finished eighth in careers saves and there were seven times he ranked in the top five in saves. Nathan also ranks sixth all-time in win probability added among relief pitchers. Jay Jaffe, the man that literally wrote the book on Cooperstown cases, has Nathan among the two best relief pitchers outside the Hall. While Jaffe usually turns to JAWS, a scoring system he created for HOF players, he examines relievers through a different lens. Jaffe places Nathan in his top-7 overall relief pitchers through his hybrid average of WAR, WPA, and situational or context-neutral wins (WPA/LI). That certainly puts him among the best relief arms in baseball history. Case Against Induction Nathan didn’t become a big-league regular until late into his 20s and this makes it hard to accumulate some of the statistical measures connected to other Hall of Fame relief pitchers. Currently, there are only eight relief pitchers that have been inducted, the fewest of any Cooperstown group. This is going to make it quite the uphill climb for Nathan to have a chance at immortality. Billy Wagner is a player currently on the Hall of Fame ballot to keep an eye on when it comes Nathan’s chances. Wagner was only on 10.5% of the ballots during his first year of eligibility back in 2017. That number was all the way up to 31.7% in 2020 as he is slowly gaining traction. Nathan has a slight edge in WPA compared to Wagner, while Wagner was able to accumulate more career WAR. If Wagner can gain election, it can help Nathan’s chances when he becomes eligible in 2022. Prediction Nathan is going to have a tough road to Cooperstown even though he is among the best relief pitchers in baseball history. Voters might begin to recognize the importance of relievers especially with their increased usage in the modern game. He is going to need some help to stay on the ballot, but he has a chance to slowly build a case like what has happened with Wagner in recent years. What’s your prediction for when Nathan appears on the Hall of Fame ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Initial Deal: November 14, 2003 Joe Mauer was waiting in the wings to talk over as the team’s full-time catcher. During the previous minor league season, Mauer posted an .832 OPS with 37 extra-base hits while making it all the way to Double-A. He was widely considered baseball’s best prospect and Baseball America had awarded him their Minor League Player of the Year. Pierzynski was no slouch either as he was an All-Star in 2002 and he was coming off a season where he posted an .824 OPS with 49 extra-base hits. The three players acquired from the Giants were Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. Nathan became one of the baseball’s best closers on the way to being inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. Liriano was electric in the minor leagues and he went on to pitch part of seven seasons for the Twins. Even Bonser pitched nearly 400 innings in Minnesota and he became the next branch in this transaction tree. Bonser Trade: December 10, 2009 As a 28-year old, Bonser was on his way out in Minnesota after the Twins designated him for assignment. Carl Pavano agreed to go to arbitration with the club and this made Bonser expendable. Also, Bonser missed the entire 2009 campaign following shoulder surgery, so it was a surprise the team was able to get anything for him. Bonser was dealt for a player to be named later that turned out to be Chris Province, a 2007 fourth round pick. He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League that season as a 25-year old, but his time in the Twins organization would be short-lived. In 2010, he pitched most of the season at Double-A where he posted a 5.58 ERA with a 1.65 WHIP. He made a few Triple-A appearances, but his career was done after a brief stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Liriano Trade: July 28, 2012 Joe Nathan would leave the Twins after the 2011 season as the team declined to pick up his $12.5 million option but paid him a $2 million buyout. This ended his part of the transaction tree, but the Twins were able to leverage Liriano to add some pieces to the organization. At the 2012 trade deadline, Minnesota dealt Liriano to the White Sox for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. Hernandez pitched just under 57 innings for the Twins and posted a 6.83 ERA with a 1.82 WHIP. He would only make one more big-league appearance and that came in 2014 with Colorado. Escobar was the key pick-up as he had 671 games in a Twins uniform while playing nearly every defensive position. At the plate, he posted a .729 OPS while getting on base 30.8% of the time. He was a solid contributor, but he was heading to free agency after the 2018 season. Escobar Trade: July 27, 2018 Minnesota was out of contention during the 2018 campaign, so the front office made multiple moves with the trade deadline approaching. Arizona sent three prospects to Minnesota in return for what could have been less than 200 at-bats from Escobar. He eventually resigned with the D-Backs, but that wasn’t a guarantee at the time of the deal. As I wrote about last week, Jhoan Duran was the biggest return for Escobar as he is considered one of the Twins top two starting pitching prospects. Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel have also added depth to the organization. When it comes to Duran, pitching prospects are never a sure thing. That being said, his ceiling seems to be a solid regular starting pitcher and if that doesn’t work, he projects to be a very good relief option. More than two and a half decades after taking Pierzynski in the 1994 MLB Draft, the Twins organization is still feeling the ramifications of his transaction tree. What are your thoughts on these deals? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. News broke on Sunday that Ron Gardenhire was retiring, effective immediately. The former Twins manager had been Detroit’s skipper for the last three seasons. He’s had a losing record in every season for the Tigers as they have been in full rebuild mode. Initially, his plan was to retire at the conclusion of the 2020 season, but a case of food poisoning and underlying health conditions pushed him into an early exit. In a press release, Gardenhire said, ““This is a bittersweet day for myself and my family. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the countless players and coaches that I’ve had the honor of working alongside for the last 16 seasons as manager. I’d also like to thank the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins for giving me the privilege of leading their clubhouses. While I’m stepping away from managing, I’ll be watching this group of Tigers closely in the next few years. There’s a lot of talent on this team, and a lot coming through the farm system. Tigers fans are going to enjoy the exciting times on the horizon.” Gardy’s Twins tenure started back in 1986 in his final year as a professional player. He played 117 games for the club’s Triple-A affiliate and hit .272/.347/.380 with 26 extra-base hits and a 70 to 45 strike out to walk ratio. He must have impressed the Twins, because he retired following the season and immediately started coaching in the Twins system. He quickly made his mark in his first three years as a minor league manager. He led teams in the Midwest League (Class A) and Southern League (Class AA) to one second place and two first place finishes. From there, he was promoted to being a coach on the big-league squad and he served as a coach for over the next decade (1991-2001). When Tom Kelly retired, Gardy took over with a flurry. In his first season as manager, he would lead the Twins to the AL Central crown and all the way to the ALCS before eventually losing to the eventual World Series champions, the Anaheim Angels. The Twins have yet to win a playoff series since that run, but Gardenhire’s impact was far from over. Minnesota would complete a three-peat of AL Central titles in 2004 before winning the title again in 2006. The club lost to the White Sox in Game 163 to end the 2008 season before coming back and winning a Game 163 against the Tigers to close out the Metrodome one year later. His final AL Central crown came in 2010 when he won his lone the AL Manager of the Year award. Many great players came to stardom under Gardenhire’s watchful eye. Johan Santana went on one of the greatest pitching runs in franchise history as he won two Cy Young awards before being traded to the Mets. Joe Mauer made his debut in 2004 and played a large portion of his potential Hall of Fame career under Gardenhire. Other players like Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie, Denard Span, Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer would have long careers tied to Gardy’s tenure. Gardenhire’s personality was what separated him from previous Twins managers. He was able to connect with players and fans and he brought a passion that would overflow into the game. His club record 71 ejections would attest to that fact. If Twins teams were in contention, he pulled the right strings to be able to keep them in the race. Overall, he seemed to be able to get the best out of his players and to guide young players as they entered the league. Following the 2010 season, things went the wrong way in a hurry for Gardenhire and the Twins. For four straight seasons, the club lost over 90 games in the worst stretch of losing in franchise history. At his final Twins press conference, he said, “Sometimes people need to hear a different voice. They need a new face. I just want this organization to win; I’ll be rooting just like everybody else.” His 27 years in the Twins organization were over, but he was still part of the Twins family. Twins President Dave St. Peter said, “Baseball has always been better with Ron Gardenhire part of it. His legacy is highlighted by the hugely positive impact he made on players and staff. I will always remember his authentic connection to the fans. The Gardenhire family will always be part of the Twins family.” Twins fans might not have agreed with every on-field decision during the Gardenhire era, but his legacy will be felt throughout Twins Territory for years to come. Congratulations on retirement to Gardenhire and his family. May he stay healthy and enjoy the years ahead. What are some of your favorite Gardy memories? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. 2019: 53-29, 9 Games Up Minnesota still would have won the AL Central after 82 games, but the playoffs would have looked different for the Bomba Squad. New York had the top record in the AL after 82 games so Minnesota would have matched up with Houston in the first round. Besides matching up with the Astros, the Twins had the second-best record in the league and that would have meant home field advantage for the ALDS. 2017: 42-40, 2.5 Games Back Back in 2017, the Twins used a surge in the second half to separate themselves from the other teams in the American League and clinch the second Wild Card spot. After 82 games, the Twins wouldn’t have been so lucky. Minnesota would have been tied with Tampa Bay and Kansas City for the second Wild Card spot. This would have set up one crazy three-way tie breaker just for the opportunity to play the Yankees in another do-or-die game. 2010: 44-38, 1 Game Back Minnesota’s first year at Target Field had it’s share of memorable moments, but it wouldn’t have included the playoffs back in 2010. Through 82 games, the Twins trailed the Tigers by one game. Detroit would have walked away with the division, so maybe Minnesota had a shot at the Wild Card? Nope. Boston and New York were off to hot starts in the AL East and the Twins were five games behind the Red Sox for the lone Wild Card spot. 2009: 42-40, 3 Games Back 2009 was a fun season for the Twins as the club stormed back and forced an unforgettable Game 163 at the Metrodome. It might be the most exciting game in Twins history. It never would have happened if the season was shortened to 82 games. Minnesota would have trailed the Tigers by three games, and they would have been tied with the White Sox for second in the division. Either way, the Twins would have missed the playoffs and the drama of Game 163 would have never occurred. How would previous seasons change if they were limited to 82 games? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. While the player names from the 1960s have a certain lore about them, the pitchers from the decade of 2000 were really good too. The staff was led by Brad Radke, a Twins Hall of Famer who was part of the Twins 1990s staff. Johan Santana came to the organization and immediately was good. Very soon after, he became the best pitcher in baseball for a dozen years. In addition, the bullpen you will see is very strong, led by a couple of Twins Hall of Famers. What you will see if a lot of strike throwers... which won't surprise you at all. So today, enjoy looking back at the top Twins pitchers from the first decade of the 21st century. SP - Johan Santana (2000-2007) 251 games, 175 starts, 93-44 with 1 save and a 3.22 ERA in 1,308 2/3 innings. 1,381 K. 364 BB. Santana was the left unprotected by the Houston Astros in the December 1999 Rule 5 draft. The Twins had arranged a trade with the Marlins to acquire Santana. They kept him around, working primarily out of the bullpen in 2000. He posted a 2.99 ERA in 108 1/3 innings in 2002. He went 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 158 1/3 innings in 2003. He increased his workload and made 18 starts. Finally in 2004 he became a full-time starter. He responded by going 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA and won his first Cy Young Award. He finished third in 2005 despite going 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA. He won his second Cy Young Award in 2006 when he went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA. He led the league in ERA in 2004 and 2006. He led the league in WHIP, FIP, strikeouts and K/9 each year between 2004 and 2006. He won another 15 games in 2007. He received Cy Young votes each season between 2003 and 2007. He was traded to the Mets before the 2008 season. SP - Brad Radke (2000-2006) 214 games, 214 starts, 82-71 with 0 saves and a 4.16 ERA in 1,366 innings. 803 K. 206 BB. The Twins eighth-round pick in 1991, he was the Twins top pitcher of the previous decade and still was a top starter in this century’s first decade. He fought some shoulder issues, but in five of his seven seasons this decade, he worked at least 200 innings. Even with his shoulder tendons barely hanging on in 2006, he pitched 162 innings. Blessed with impeccable control, Radke was consistent. In all but his injured seasons, he posted better-than-average ERA. SP - Scott Baker (2005-2009) 111 games, 109 starts, 43-33 with 0 saves and a 4.27 ERA in 653 innings. 499 K. 149 BB. Baker was the Twins second-round draft pick in 2003 out of Oklahoma State. He moved quickly and made his debut in May of 2005. He was a slightly better than average pitcher for the Twins through his seven seasons with the team. He went 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 172 1/3 innings in 2008. In 2009, he worked a career-high 200 innings and was 15-9 with a 4.37 ERA. After missing the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, he pitched for the Cubs, Rangers and Dodgers over the next three seasons. SP - Carlos Silva (2004-2007) 129 games, 124 starts, 47-45 with 0 saves and a 4.42 ERA in 773 2/3 innings. 306 K. 112 BB. In 2001 and 2002, Silva pitched in 130 games out of the bullpen for the Phillies. After that season, he was part of the trade that sent Eric Milton to Philadelphia. The Twins moved him into their starting rotation. He went 14-8 with a 4.21 ERA over 33 starts and a career-high 203 innings in 2004. In 2005, he went 9-8 in 27 starts, with a 3.44 ERA. As impressive, he had the same number of walks as Wins that season, over 188 1/3 innings. He struggled in 2006, but in 2007, he went 13-14 with a solid 4.19 ERA in 202 innings. Over his four seasons with the Twins, he struck out just 3.6 batters per nine innings. He survived by working fast, getting a lot of sink and throwing a ton of strikes. He left after the 2007 season for a four-year, $48 million deal with the Mariners. SP - Eric Milton (2000-2003) 100 games, 99 starts, 42-26 with 0 saves and a 4.60 ERA in 608 2/3 innings. 445 K. 136 BB. Milton came to the Twins from the Yankees before the 1998 season in the Chuck Knoblauch trade. He had been a first-round pick by the pinstripers. He debuted in 1998. In 2000, he won 13 games. In 2001, he made the All-Star team and won 15 games with a 4.32 ERA in 220 innings. He won 13 more games in 2002. He missed most of the 2003 season with injury but returned late in the season for three starts. It was enough to impress the Phillies who acquired him after that season. RP - Joe Nathan (2004-2009) 412 games, 0 starts, 22-12 with 246 saves and a 1.87 ERA in 418 2/3 innings. 518 K. 120 BB. Nathan came up with the Giants in 1999 and remained with them through the 2003 season. That final season, he was a very good set-up man. That offseason, the Twins acquired Nathan and two other pitchers in exchange for AJ Pierzynski. Nathan wasn’t handed the closer job, but he quickly earned it and he absolutely took off. That first year, he posted a 1.62 ERA and 44 saves. Over his first six seasons with the Twins, he posted an ERA over 2.10 just once (2.70). He had at least 36 saves each season and a career-high 47 saves in 2009. He never had a WHIP over 1.02. He pitched in four All-Star Games. The Twins all-time saves leader became a Twins Hall of Famer. RP - LaTroy Hawkins (2000-2003) 267 games, 0 starts, 18-13 with 44 saves and a 3.09 ERA in 296 2/3 innings. 233 K. 101 BB. Hawkins was the Twins seventh-round pick in 1991. He debuted with the Twins in 1995. He was tried as a starting pitcher through the 1999 season. He moved to the bullpen in 2000. He recorded 42 saves between 2000 and 2001 but he struggled in that role. When Eddie Guardado took over as the team’s closer, Hawk moved into the set up role and became a force. He went 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 80 1/3 innings in 2002. In 2003, he went 9-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 77 1/3 innings. He had struggled with control to that point, but he walked just 15 batters each season. He left after the season as a free agent… and then he kept pitching through the 2015 season. Pitching very well. RP - Eddie Guardado (2000-2003) 280 games, 0 starts, 19-14 with 107 saves and a 3.42 ERA in 268 1/3 innings. 254 K. 82 BB. Guardado was the Twins 21st-round pick in 1990 and was in the big leagues by 1993. By 1996, he earned the moniker “Everyday Eddie” because the southpaw was used so much. By the turn of the century, he had become very reliable. He saw his ERA drop from near-5, to mid-4s, to high-3s. Between 2000 and 2001, he won 14 games. By the end of the 2001 season, he took over the closer role. In 2002, he went 1-3 with a 2.93 ERA. He led the league with 45 saves and pitched in his first All-Star Game. He returned to the mid-summer classic in 2003. That season, he went 3-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 41 saves. After the season, he left for the Mariners via free agency. He returned to the Twins in September of 2008 and pitched in nine games. RP - Matt Guerrier (2004-2009) 319 games, 3 starts, 14-18 with 4 saves and a 3.41 ERA in 401 innings. 268 K. 125 BB. Following the 2003 season, the Twins claimed Guerrier after he had been DFAd by the White Sox. He pitched in nine games for the Twins in 2004, but he then became a mainstay in the Twins bullpen, eventually moving in to a high-leverage role. He led the AL in appearances in both 2008 and 2009. In 2009, he went 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA, which was 86% better than league average. He posted an ERA well above league average in four of his five full seasons with the Twins in the decade. He left via free agency after the 2010 season. Spent two years there, then one with the Cubs before returning to the Twins for about a half season in 2014. RP - Juan Rincon (2001-2008) 386 games, 3 starts, 30-26 with 3 saves and a 3.69 ERA in 441 innings. 412 K. 182 BB. Rincon signed with the Twins in 1996 out of Venezuela. He made his debut in 2001 and spent most of the next eight seasons in a Twins uniform. He became a regular in 2003, but 2004 was likely his best season. He went 11-6 with a 2.63 ERA. In 82 innings, he struck out 106 batters. The following year, he posted a 2.45 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning. In 2006, he was 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in 74 games. He wasn’t the same pitcher after his PED suspension in 2007 and was let go midway through the 2008 season. He continued to pitch into the 2010 season. What are your thoughts? Agree with the choices? Previous Installments Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers) Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers) Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Pitchers)
  9. Jack Morris Region Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is widely considered one of the best games in baseball history. It capped off a tremendous back-and-forth World Series that might be the best World Series in history (See Kirby Puckett Region below). Jack Morris pitched 10-shutout innings on the way to winning the World Series MVP and this game was the logical choice as the number one overall seed. After a Twitter request, many important games in Twins history were identified and placed throughout the tournament. Johan Santana dueling with Jamie Garcia back in 2005, Minnesota tying for the AL West lead in 1987, and clinching the AL title back in 1965 were all great moments that some fans might have forgot. In the end, fans appreciated the 2002 Twins and their defeat of the Oakland A’s featured in the book and movie Moneyball. Kent Hrbek Region Kent Hrbek, a native of Bloomington, famously caught the final out of the 1987 World Series as the Twins were champions for the first time in franchise history. While the 1991 World Series is thought of as one of the best in history, the 1987 World Series was also strong as it went a full seven games and featured plenty of memorable moments. Johan Santana’s best strikeout performance, Jason Kubel taking out the game’s best closer, and Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter were not match for the team’s first championship. One of the most important games in Twins history got beat out in the first round of this bracket. Back in 1965, Harmon Killebrew walked off the New York Yankees in the days leading into the All-Star Game. It propelled the team to their first World Series run. Alexi Casilla Region Alexi Casilla certainly does not fit in with the other big names for this bracket’s regions, but he did provide one of the biggest hits in one of the team’s greatest games. Game 163 back in 2009 gave the Metrodome a send-off for the ages (we will just gloss over the Yankees series in the ALDS). For the younger generation of Twins fans, Game 163 is their World Series moment, because the club has not won a playoff series since 2002. One of my favorite games to attend was also in this bracket. Game 162 in 2006 saw Joe Mauer secure his first batting title, but the best moment of the day took place after the game. Twins players stayed in the dugout and fans stayed in the stands to watch the Tigers and Royals play on the big screen. Kansas City was able to upset the Tigers and the Twins players stormed the field and did a victory lap after clinching the AL Central. Kirby Puckett Region Kirby Puckett told the team to get on his back and he made sure to follow through with his end of the bargain. Puckett’s first big moment in the game was a leaping catch as he scaled the Plexiglass wall that occupied the Metrodome’s outfield fence. Later in the game, Puckett provided quite possibly the signature moment in Twins history with his extra-inning walk-off home run to push the series to a decisive seventh game. Puckett had another big moment that was part of this region. In 1987, he had a perfect 6-for-6 day at the plate that still stands as the team record for hits in one game. Jim Thome hit the first walk-off at Target Field and his 600th home run came a season later. Neither of these games survived the first round. Minnesota is the only club to turn two triple-plays in one game, but that game got beat out by Scott Erickson’s no-hitter. Final Four All four number one seeds qualified for the Final Four, but it was really no contest to get into the championship game. The 1991 World Series provided so many memorable moments that Game 163 and the team’s first championship clinching game did not stand much of a shot. It would come down to a battle for the ages between Game 6 and Game 7 from the 1991 World Series. In the end, it came down to two games that were separated by one night. Kirby Puckett provided a masterpiece with a defensive play for the ages and an iconic home run. On the other side of the coin, Jack Morris provided a pitching performance for the ages. Both games were epic, but Game 7 of the 1991 World Series might be the best game that has ever been played and that is the champion of this bracket. https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/1250115733633236994 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. Hall of Fame players are not one-size fits all and, for many, the path to the Hall includes excellence over a long period of time. Joe Nathan’s play over the last decade is certainly going to warrant some consideration for the Hall, but there could be some obstacles awaiting him on his path to enshrinement. Much like current Twin Nelson Cruz, Nathan didn’t become a big league regular until late into his 20s. Minnesota traded for him in one of the best trades in franchise history and he immediately became one of the best closers in the game. Unfortunately for Nathan, relief pitchers are underrepresented in the Cooperstown’s hallowed halls. The current HOF relievers are Dennis Eckersley, Mariano Rivera, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Trevor Hoffman, and Rollie Fingers. Currently, Billy Wagner has been slowly gaining traction on the HOF ballot. In his fifth year of eligibility, his named was penciled in on 31.7% of the writer’s ballots. This was up 25% from the 2019 ballot where he finished with 16.7% of the vote. Back in 2017, his first year on the ballot, he was only on 10.5% of the ballots. FanGraphs Jay Jaffe named Wagner and Nathan as the two best relief pitchers outside the Hall. Both Wagner and Nathan are within 1.0 WAR of each other, but Nathan has 1.5 more WPA. While these players put up strong numbers in their era, however, each falls sort of the HOF average for WAR (39.1). Rivera and Eckersley shift the WAR average significantly as they averaged over 59 WAR between the two of them alone. One way to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness is Jaffe’s scoring system known as JAWS. According to Baseball Reference, a player’s JAWS is their career WAR averaged with their 7-year peak WAR. To examine Nathan, one must compare him to the other relievers already elected to the Hall. JAWS has Nathan ranked closely to other Hall of Fame relievers. Smith and Sutter rank just above him and Hoffman is two spots behind him with Wagner being between Nathan and Hoffman. Overall, Jaffe places Wagner and Nathan in his top-7 overall relief pitchers through his hybrid average of WAR, WPA, and situational or context-neutral wins (WPA/LI). If Wagner can garner enough support to be elected, Nathan should have the opportunity as well. Nathan has other statistics that could help his Cooperstown case. Even with his late debut, he was able to pitch into his early 40’s. Along the way, he was elected to six All-Star teams, finished in the top-5 of Cy Young voting twice, struck out more than a batter per inning and he finished in the top-5 in saves five times. Overall, he’s eighth in career saves and he had five seasons with a 1.88 ERA or lower. Much like Wagner, it is going to be a tough road to Cooperstown. Wagner continues to gain support and Nathan is close to Wagner in many categories. Will Nathan be able to stay on the ballot and eventually be on the stage in Cooperstown? We will have to wait until 2022 to find out. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Mauer’s Presence In the 2003-04 off-season, Mauer was coming off a tremendous minor league season. Between High- and Double-A, he hit .338/.398/.434 (.832) with 37 extra-base hits in 135 games. Baseball America awarded him the Minor League Player of the Year and he would be named the number one prospect that off-season. St. Paul’s hometown boy seemed destined to take his place behind the plate at the Metrodome. Blocking Mauer was Minnesota’s starting catcher in 2003, AJ Pierzynski, and he was coming off a strong season himself. He had an All-Star season in 2002, but the 2003 campaign might have been his best in a Twins uniform. He slashed .312/.360/.464 (.824) with 49 extra-base hits in 137 games. He would only have one other season with a higher OPS in his entire 19-year career. Minnesota was ready to hand the reins to Mauer, which left Pierzynski as a tradeable commodity. Trade Time From the Giants perspective, the trade didn’t look that bad on paper. Pierzynski was in the prime of his career as a 26-year old catcher that was coming off a 4.5 WAR season. To top it off, he had three years of arbitration left, so he wasn’t just a rental player. Regardless of his attitude problems, he was a very good player at a tough position that should have gotten quite the return. From the Twins perspective, well… it’s tough to know what they were thinking at the time. Joe Nathan was a 28-year old reliever that was coming off his first decent season in the bullpen. There had been previous concerns about his shoulder and the possibility of those things lingering. Liriano hadn’t pitched more than 80 innings in any season of his professional career and he had injury concerns of his own. Boof Bonser saw his strikeout rate and velocity drop in the year before the trade. At the time of the trade it looked like San Francisco had fleeced the Twins, but baseball is a funny game. Hindsight is 20-20 Twins fans know what happened after the trade. AJ Pierzynski played one season in San Francisco and hit .272/.319/.410 with 41 extra-base hits. He was worth 0.3 WAR that season. Even though, he could have been arbitration eligible for two more seasons, he had caused so many headaches for the Giants that they let him go at season’s end. He ended up in Chicago and helped the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title. Minnesota got quite the value from their cast-off pitching trio. Nathan would turn into one of the best relievers in the game and accumulate 18.4 WAR during his seven years with the Twins. Liriano exploded onto the scene in 2006 and it looked like the Twins would be unstoppable with a Johan Santana and Liriano combo. Tommy John surgery stopped that dream from becoming a reality, but Liriano was still able to accumulate 9.3 WAR in his Twins tenure. Bonser pitched over 390 innings for the Twins, including one playoff start, and was worth -0.3 WAR. Terry Ryan and Minnesota’s scouting department must have known what they were getting in Nathan, Liriano, and Bonser. They also knew what they were giving up in Pierzynski. What do you remember about this trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  12. Minor Leagues With his college experience, it made sense for Rogers to try to stick as a starting pitcher. During his professional debut (15 appearances), he split time between Elizabethton and Beloit with a 2.27 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 74 to 17 strikeout to walk ratio. In 2013, he continued to be utilized as a starter. Between Low- and High-A, he posted good numbers as he made 24 starts and posted a 2.88 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP. Over the next two seasons, he would continue to start, and he made multiple trips to the Arizona Fall League. New Britain was his home for all of 2014 as he had a 3.29 ERA and a 1.29 ERA. He made only three appearances in the AFL that season, but he limited batters to four hits and one earned run. He continued to climb the ladder in 2015 as he pitched to a 3.98 ERA at Triple-A. A return trip to the AFL saw him start six games with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. It was time to see what he could do at the big-league level, but it would come with a new role as a relief pitcher. Rough Transition During his rookie season, Rogers made 57 relief appearances (61 1/3 innings) and had a 3.96 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Batters were making solid contact against him on a regular basis. His 89.7 exit velocity and 40.8% hard hit percentage were in the bottom 6% of the league. Opponents hit .260/.318/.401 (.719) against him that year as he surrendered a career high seven home runs. The 2017 campaign saw Rogers still trying to acclimate to life as a reliever. His WHIP rose to 1.31 and his strikeouts per nine dipped from 9.4 to 7.9. Obviously, this isn’t a good sign in the transition to the bullpen. However, opponent's exit velocity dropped nearly three miles per hour (89.7 to 86.9) and his hard-hit percentage finished at 35.4%. One of the biggest intentional changes was his decreased use of his fastball. He used his four seamer 3.9% of the time, which was a steep drop from 17% in 2016 (see chart below). From this point forward, Rogers made other pitching changes to transform into one of baseball’s best relievers. Among Baseball’s Best Besides his fastball usage, Rogers made two other pitching changes to become dominant. He implemented a slider in 2018 and it has become his second most used pitch during the 2019 campaign. Other than that, his curveball has almost disappeared. He used this pitch over 33% of the time last year and he has only used it 1.3% of the time this season. Rogers has provided unbelievable value to the Twins this season. His 2.78 win probability added (WPA) leads all Twins pitchers. It’s almost a full win higher than Minnesota’s All-Star starters Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. No position player has a higher total than Rogers. He also might be on pace for one of the best relief seasons in Twins history. Since Target Field opened in 2010, Glen Perkins (2.79 WPA) has the best WPA of any Twin reliever. Jared Burton (2.41 WPA) and Glen Perkins (1.85 WPA) in 2012 have the other top totals. Doug Corbett’s 1980 season was Minnesota’s all-time best WPA mark from a reliever. His 7.58 total is likely untouchable for Rogers, but he could have enough to catch Joe Nathan’s 5.77 WPA for second place all-time. During a record-setting year, Rogers might be the AL’s most valuable reliever. He is the lone AL relief pitcher with a WPA over 2.0 and he is closing in on 3.0. He’s up 0.85 WPA over Alex Colome, the second-place relief arm. Former Twins Liam Hendricks (1.87 WPA) and Ryan Pressly (1.78 WPA) round out the top-four. It’s been quite the journey, but Rogers could end this season as the most valuable reliever in the American League. Do you think Taylor Rogers is the most valuable reliever in the AL? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  13. Byron Buxton didn’t finish last season in Minnesota. The organization decided not to make him a September call-up. In doing so, the club picked up an extra year of service time as Buxton now won’t be eligible for free agency until 2023. There were high hopes for Buxton entering the 2018 campaign. He ended 2017 on an upswing as he hit .300/.347/.546 with 23 extra-base hits in the second half. However, the 2018 campaign quickly turned into a nightmare for Buxton. He only managed to play 28 games at the big-league level while hitting .156/.183/.200 with four extra-base hits. He struggled through injuries and spent time trying to find his swing in the minor leagues. Some players take time to develop. In recent memory, Aaron Hicks was a player that took some time to figure it out at baseball’s highest level. Since leaving the Twins three years ago, he has been the tenth most valuable outfielder in the American League. Another former Twin, Joe Nathan, didn’t see his career take off until being traded to Minnesota and becoming the team’s closer at age 29. Baseball is a funny game. Sometimes it pays to be patient, especially with a player like Buxton who seems to have endless potential. Buxton is the one player on the Twins roster who can impact the game in every way. He’s shown the ability to be the best defensive player in the league. He can drive teams crazy on the bases with his ability to turn a single into a double or move from first to third on a slow roller to the outfield. The Twins don’t need Buxton to hit. 350 and crack 40 home runs. His defense and running ability make him valuable without even considering his hit and power tools. A healthy Buxton could result in more of what Twins fans saw in the second half of 2017. Buxton showed his ability to hit for average and to post some strong power numbers. Minnesota’s next window of opportunity is right now, and Buxton’s emergence is key to the club moving forward. Miguel Sano is an important piece as well, but Buxton can impact every facet of the game. If Minnesota sits atop the AL Central at season’s end, Buxton was likely part of the team’s success. Baseball’s former top prospect is only 25-years old so there is no reason to give up on him now. Buckle-up Twins fans because Buxton could be just one key component to the team’s success next season. He is a threat to break out at any moment. How important is Buxton to the Twins in 2019? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  14. The Twins will have pre-game ceremonies on the field before games on August 3rd and 4th, games against the Royals. "The Pohlad family and entire Minnesota Twins organization would like to offer congratulations to Joe Nathan and Jerry Bell on their well-deserved election to the Twins Hall of Fame." Joe Nathan became the Twins all-time leader in Saves with 260. He pitched for the Twins in 2004 through 2011, seven of his 16 MLB seasons. Over his time with the Twins, he went 24-13 with a 2.16 ERA in 463 1/3 innings. He struck out 561 in that time. Nathan came to the Twins in one of the most famous Twins trades. In 2004, Terry Ryan traded catcher AJ Pierzynski in exchange for Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. Jerry Bell became the third president in Twins history in January of 1987. He kept that role for 16 seasons. He was key in work done to ensure Twins baseball remained in Minnesota long-term. He oversaw the development, design, construction and opening of Target Field. He also was very involved in the development of the Twins spring training facilities in Ft. Myers. The first 10,000 fans at Target Field on Saturday, August 3, will receive a Joe Nathan Hall of Fame bobblehead. On August 4th, the first 5,000 fans will receive Jerry Bell and Joe Nathan Hall of Fame pins. Notes St. Peter also announced that through the Diamond Awards, nearly $4 million has been raised to help the Bob Allison Ataxia foundation and the research of the University of Minnesota. This is the sixth year that Twins Fest has been at Target Field. Over 60 current, former and future Twins will be in attendance. There are still some tickets available. Proceeds from the event go to the Twins Community Fund. St. Peter noted that they hope that there will be approximately two million fans at Target Field in 2019, about the same as 2018. He said that about 80 to 90 percent of season ticket holders have renewed, a number that will be around 12,000. He pointed out that the Gophers will be playing Oklahoma at Target Field on April 20th. He again mentioned the NDSU football season opener will be at Target Field against Butler. Over 29,000 tickets have already been sold. He also said that there will be at least one concert at Target Field this summer. That information will be coming in the near future.
  15. The Meltdown is Saturday, Jan 26th, from 4:30-7:30. That's the same night you'll be in town anyway, going to Twins Fest. It'll be at Brothers Bar in downtown Minneapolis, just two blocks from Twins Plaza. It includes a pint glass (you can see previous years’) and two free 612 Brew beers. Plus, you could have met all of the above guests and many more at our Meltdowns. (We're not letting the cat out of the bag yet who are special guests are this year until after the new year.) There will also be some sweet raffle and game prizes, and lots of time to talk Hot Stove and order some of Brothers great food. Finally, this year we’ll be donating proceeds to a local non-profit, which we’ll also announce soon. Warning: These sell out. So even if your holiday shopping is done, you might want to grab some ASAP. Or let your family know that THIS is what you really want. Or buy a pack and give your friends, family and coworkers a night to remember in the dead of winter. We'll see you there. BUY HERE NOW.
  16. This list is obviously subjective, but I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite ads produced by the Twins or featuring Twins players? Laurel Krahn (@wintwins on Twitter) has a wonderful playlist on YouTube with more than 100 Twins commercials. But even the Internet has its limitations. I’m sure there are some great older ones that aren’t out there on YouTube. 10. Joe Mauer Mean Joe Green Tribute 9. Sorta Deep Thoughts With Bert Blyleven and Carl Pavano https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT4jCLoxWYk&feature=youtu.be 8. Ron Gardenhire on TC’s Natural Habitat 7. Kent Hrbek’s First Base Lessons for Joe Mauer 6. Get to Know Em: Cristian Guzman 5. Sorta Deep Thoughts With Justin Morneau and TC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqY5E_FDIUM&feature=youtu.be 4. Johan Santana/Joe Nathan Carpool 3. Torii Hunter Birthday party pinata 2. Michael Cuddyer’s Magic Show 1, Get to Know Em: Corey Koskie There were some tough choices, and I shared another 10 spots I really enjoyed on Twitter outside of this batch. A few of these are from the same ad campaigns, but they were so good I couldn’t narrow down to just one per year. The Twins renaissance in the early 2000s had more to do with the players on the field and their success than any ad campaign, but the Get to Know ‘Em commercials were brilliant. The Twins were a developing club packed with young talent, but the players were still mostly anonymous even in a lot of parts of Twins Territory. The team had been an afterthought for several years. In 2000, they averaged just 12,355 fans per game, topping only the Montreal Expos in attendance that season. To put that into some more perspective, the Tampa Bay Rays were dead last in attendance in 2017, but they drew 15,477 fans on average. Hunt Adkins was the agency behind those Get to Know ‘Em commercials that put the focus on the players, their stories and their backgrounds. They had a great four-year relationship with the Twins. The team has has been partnered with Periscope the past 13 years — I especially appreciated their Sorta Deep Thoughts commercials — but a new agency will be at the helm in 2018: Carmichael Lynch. Here’s a link to some of the agency’s work, which includes the Jack Link’s Beef Jerky Messin’ With Sasquatch ads. OK, now it’s your turn. What are your favorite Twins commercials?
  17. Let’s take a quick look back at all the articles from the front page in the order they were published. This edition of Twins Weekly covers Friday, Jan. 19 to Thursday, Jan. 25. Diamond Awards A Big Success | John Bonnes Players’ Union Rejects Pace Of Play Proposals | Cody Christie Johan Santana Elected To Twins Hall of Fame | Seth Stohs The Twins Almanac for January 21–27 | Matt Johnson Gleeman & The Geek, Ep 352: Winter Meltdown 2018 | John Bonnes Can Addison Reed Become Minnesota's Bullpen Ace? | Nick Nelson Twins On Deck With Seth Podcast (Episode 3) | Seth Stohs Top Ten Twins Players Under 25 (6-10) | Cody Christie Overheard at TwinsFest: Granite Wants to Kick Yankee @!# | Tom Froemming Fernando Romero Is Healthy, Ready To Compete | Seth Stohs Glen Perkins: Tribute To A Twins Daily Hall Of Famer | Nick Nelson Would You Rather: Darvish or a Cobb/Lynn Combo? | Tom Froemming 5 Challenges The Twins Should Be Prepared To Face In 2018 | Nick Nelson Report: Darvish Decision Expected This Week, Twins In Consideration | Cody Christie Video: Slowing Things Down To See Jason Castro’s Silent Skill | Tom Froemming Get To Know Rule 5 Pick Tyler Kinley | Seth Stohs The Minnesota Twins Said No To Jim Thome | Parker Hageman Dollars Make Sense for 2018 Twins | Ted Schwerzler Twins Daily Blogs Below are some additional items of note from the blog area. I've pulled excerpts from each piece in an attempt to hook you in. The Sport of Immigrants By mikelink45 From the start the Minnesota Twins had an international connection. In the 1960’s before the recent surge in Foreign born players, the Twins had a Cuban connection that brought us Camilo Pascual, Tony Oliva, Zoilo Versalles, Sandy Valdespino, and Luis Tiant. And from Venezuela – Cesar Tovar who took us to the 1965 World Series. In their first years, when I was an usher, I always tried to get near the first base bag as the game moved on and the seats were full so I could watch my favorite player – Vic Power from Puerto Rico. I loved Pedro Ramos who complimented Pascual on the mound and does anyone remember Elmer Valo from Slovakia? Or Reno Bertoia from Italy who lived in Canada and is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame? There were 9 foreign born players on our first Minnesota Twins team.Twins Analytics Infrastructure By jharaldson This Twins have had a bit of a tortured history with analytics. In 2010 Rob Antony did an interview with TwinsDaily’s own Parker Hageman and revealed some interesting facts about the Twins and Sabermetrics. Antony stated this about their analytics department, “we're probably one of the last, if not the last, team to address it with a person dedicated solely to that.”. He went on further to fail to understand some fairly basic concepts about Sabermetrics. He thought FIP was “first strike in inning pitched” and was unable to guess about BABIP. He then revealed they had just hired their analytics guy and stated he would be “Gathering information and creating databases. This will be his first year. The guy that we brought in will start creating systems to build a foundation of our own that we can look at.” This is what I primarily want to get into as I have a background in IT.WAR on Twins Hall of Fame By sethmoko The announcement of Johan Santana's well-deserved selection to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame as well as the round-and-round Twitter and blog conversation about MLB Hall of Fame selections got me thinking: Who is in the Twins Hall of Fame that might surprise and who are other deserving candidates.Twins Showing Interest in Wade Miley By Andrew Thares Wade Miley isn’t the sexiest name out there on the starting pitcher market, but he could be a value grab for the Twins as they look to add depth to their rotation. One thing the Twins will be able to count on in Miley is his durability, as he has averaged 186 innings per season over the last six years. Miley has a respectable 4.38 ERA, and 3.95 xFIP, over his career, though he has been suspect of late with a 5.48 ERA over the past two seasons. This will make Miley a cheap signing, that the Twins could take a flyer on.Bullish - The Upside of the 2018 Bullpen By Jamie Cameron Looking at the most effective bullpens of 2017, an even more integral stat is K/9. This makes a ton of sense, not much can go wrong if you’re striking hitters out on a consistent basis. In 2017, there were 9 teams with a bullpen K/9 of at least 9.5. Between them, these clubs averaged a WAR of 6.5 for their bullpen. The Twins bullpen WAR in 2017 was 2.2, not a disaster, good for 22nd in MLB. By K/9, the Twins ranked 29th, with just 7.66 strikeouts per nine innings. Hardly surprising, when you are cycling through nearly 30 relievers over the course of the season. So how do the Twins new additions stack up in generating more strikeouts?What does one of the newest predictive measurements tell about the Twins' bats in 2018? By Thrylos As indicated only Joe Mauer, and in a lesser degree, Jason Castro are projected to improve, as far as the 2018 startling 9 of the Twins go. Pretty much everyone else is projected to decline. If one looks at several projections about what the 2018 will do, which are based on xwOBA, expect them to show an overall decline in wins.Video of the Week New Hall of Famer Jim Thome was only with the Twins for two seasons, but he sure gave us some tall tales during his time here. eBay Item of the Week It’s too bad Glen Perkins’ prime coincided with a down period for the Twins, but Perk closing out the All-Star Game at Target Field was one of the highlights of that period. Check out this sweet program from that game with the hometown boy on the cover: This isn’t on eBay, but if you’re looking to score some other sweet Twins memorabilia and support a good cause, check out the listings at the Darrell and Merry’s Cancer Fund charity auction. There are 14 items up for grabs from Twins legends like Tony Oliva to prospects like Royce Lewis and everybody in between. Additional Links Baseball: Twins' Curtiss saves the day in relief By the Duluth News Tribune John Curtiss took the call on Monday in Dallas asking if he could fill in for fellow Minnesota Twins pitcher Jose Berrios on the team's annual Winter Caravan after Berrios returned home to Puerto Rico to attend to a family matter. Curtiss sprang into action, but his flight to Minneapolis on Monday was delayed due to the blizzard that hit the Twin Cities. He even offered to fly to Omaha, Neb., and then drive the rest of the way, but he instead ended up flying out Tuesday morning, where he joined the Winter Caravan later that day.Target Field renovations for 2018 unveiled By Maija Varda of Twinkie Town The biggest change happening is that the Metropolitan Club — the big glass area in right field reserved exclusively for season ticket holders — will be no more. Instead, it will be replaced by a new club called Bat & Barrel, and will be open to all ticket holders. It’ll have bar, table, and lounge seating, a bunch of TVs, alcohol, new food, and all the other things you’d expect the Twins to put in there. More unexpectedly, the club will also be the home for various team awards, including both World Series Championship trophies! Woo! Unfortunately, the team didn’t say whether these would be the real World Series trophies, or replicas like the ones they already display in the Champions Club behind home plate (the real trophies are kept in the team offices).Torres, Tatis Jr. lead Top 10 SS Prospects list (includes Royce Lewis and Nick Gordon) By Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com Keep an eye on - Wander Javier, Twins By the end of the year, it's possible that Javier will be getting more of the attention among Twins shortstops. Signed for $4 million in 2015, he had a strong United States debut in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2017 and could really break out with a move to the Midwest League this season.Minnesota Twins Spring Training Countdown: 22, Brad Radke By Benjamin Chase of Puckett’s Pond The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectations after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card. We will have bring out numbers from team history that represent the number of days until spring training from now until pitchers and catchers report on February 13th. Some pitchers put up incredible ERA numbers, some pitchers put up incredible strikeout numbers, and some pitchers simply put up consistent numbers year-after-year to create their value over time. One of the best examples of that model is Twins Hall of Fame starter Brad Radke, who wore #22.Baseball is Good By Cory Engelhardt I had my 32nd episode last night. I was my own guest. It was really interesting/unusual doing a show all on my own, and I felt at times like I was rambling on a bit. Outside of that, I enjoyed doing the show and asking myself some of the questions that I have asked other people in previous podcast. I touched on how I grew to love the sport, why I enjoy still talking about baseball, what I see as the future of Baseball is Good, and lastly I ended the show going over some memories I had from TwinsFest this past weekend. Please give it a listen!Calling All Bloggers!!! Reminder: Anyone can start a blog at Twins Daily. If you're interested in being a regular writer for the site, the blog section is how you get your foot in the door. The only reason you're reading my words right now is because I started my own blog at Twins Daily. Calling All Readers!!! I don’t want to leave you out, either. If there's anything you'd love to read about next week, please let us know in the comments. That does it for this edition of Twins Weekly, have a great weekend everyone.
  18. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Episode_352_Winter_Meltdown_2018.mp3
  19. Sota Stick Snap Back Gift Pack Over $100 of Sota Stick Co. merchandise that makes sure you have all the bases covered for all your favorite Minnesota sports teams, with designs that other MN sports fans will appreciate. Autographed Brad Radke Baseball You won’t be able to see Brad Radke at TwinsFest, but you can get an autographed Brad Radke baseball at the Winter Meltdown, courtesy of Fan HQ. 1991 Replica World Series Ring This will be available for you to try and on and take pictures with, and one lucky guest will be going home with it. Brother’s Bar & Grill Special Gift Pack If you’re brave enough to talk to other Twins fans, you’ll have a chance to win special prizes and gift cards from Brother’s Bar & Grill. Bushmills Basket This next one, you’ll need to be 21 to win, but win you will. It’s a basket of your favorite Bushmills Irish Whiskey and merchandise. There will also be a photo booth, activities, contests and more, but you need to Not only will the 500 guests at the Winter Meltdown get to see Joe Nathan and have a few tasty 612 Brews, but they'll also get this fantastic pint glass on the right, designed by Brock Beauchamp. And if you attended last year, you'll see how well it complements last year's glass on the left. There will also be lots of hot stove league talk, lots of Twins talk, special guests and some unbelievable raffle prizes that we'll detail tomorrow. But you need to grab the tickets because you CANNOT attend without buying a ticket early, there are no tickets sold at the door. (Not to mention the possibility of a sellout.) So... Grab Your Tickets Now. We just watched the second best moment in Minnesota sports history. Also I completely lost my mind. Fortunately, so did 612 Brew, because they have sponsored an additional 65 tickets available to the Winter Meltdown. Also: Joe Nathan. I don't know what else to say. The greatest reliever in Twins history is going to be joining us this Saturday at Brothers Bar & Grill (a two block walk from TwinsFest) and you COULD be there if you act super fast. Almost 500 tickets for this were sold prior to Christmas, and we thought we were sold out, but Brothers and 612 made another 65 tickets available for $30 apiece. I seriously expect them gone by noon today, so if you can't commit, I get it, but we'll see you next year. If you CAN commit - grab your tickets here. Now. When: January 20th, 4:30-7:30 Where: Brother's Bar & Grill Who: 500+ Twins fans and special guest Joe Nathan What: Hot Stove talk, great raffle prizes, two free 612 craft beers and a free Winter Meltdown Pint Glass.
  20. Let’s take a quick look back at all the articles from the front page in the order they were published. This edition of Twins Weekly covers Friday, Jan. 12-Thursday, Jan. 18. The Time For A Buxton Extension Is Now - Nick Nelson Looking Back: Twins Draft Kirby Puckett - Seth Stohs Twins Arbitration Notes - Seth Stohs Rosenthal: Twins Agree to Deal With Addison Reed - Tom Froemming Exploring The Back-End Of The 40-Man Roster - Cody Christie The Twins Almanac for January 14–20 - Matt Johnson Still A Few Dozen Tickets Left To See Joe Nathan At The Winter Meltdown! - John Bonnes Gleeman & The Geek: Ep 351: Addison Reed! - John Bonnes Joe Nathan, Fernando Rodney, And History - Nick Nelson SethSpeaks Podcast (Episode 2) Features 1st-Rounders Lewis, Rooker, Kirilloff - Seth Stohs Twelve's A Crowd: Twins Are Rolling In Relief - Nick Nelson Each Minnesota Team’s Greatest Finish - Cody Christie Not So Fast: Is Eddie Rosario Already Losing a Step? - Tom Froemming Get To Know Twins Third Base Prospect Andrew Bechtold - Seth Stohs Three Twins Breakout Candidates For 2018 - Cody Christie Twins Daily Blogs Below are some additional items of note from the blog area. I've pulled excerpts from each piece in an attempt to hook you in. Why Yu Darvish Will Be Cheaper Than Everyone Thinks By Andrew Thares In years past, the available marquee free agents were almost exclusively signed by the richest teams in baseball. In fact, 9 of the 20 richest contracts in MLB history were signed by either the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox. However, as MLB front offices are starting to get smarter, they are starting to learn that these big time free agent contracts are almost never worth it in the long run. As a result, teams are starting to shift their focus toward lower tier free agents they can sign to short term, and more reasonably priced contracts, like relievers. New Approach on Signing Yu Darvish By jharaldson My idea is for the Twins to offer Darvish a massively over-market contract for 1 year. Here are the details: -1 year/$40 million -Vesting team option for a second year at $15 million if Darvish does not pitch at least 100 innings. -Majority of the $40 million is in the form of a signing bonus so as to allow a tax favorable payment to Darvish with his current residency being in Texas, a state with no income tax. The Reed Option By Jamie Cameron Reed joins a Twins bullpen shaping up to be vastly different, and potentially much improved over its 2017 iteration. In addition to returning standout Trevor Hildenberger, the Twins have added Fernando Rodney, presumably filling the vacant ninth inning role, and Zach Duke, returning from an injury-plagued 2017 season. In the former trio, the Twins seem to have established a model for the traits they are pursuing in improving their bullpen; inducing ground balls and a lot of strikeouts, hardly a pioneering recipe for success. In Reed however, they have added a pitcher who generates more fly balls, so what about Reed has made him such a consistent a reliable late inning reliever? Mitch Garver & Zack Granite back in CR for Winter Caravan By SD Buhr Garver played in 120 games for the 2014 version of the Kernels and hit for a .298 average. His career has steadily progressed each year since. Granite's time in Cedar Rapids was cut short by injury in 2014, but he returned in 2015 and immediately hit so well that he earned a quick promotion to Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Wanting to make the most of what time I had with each player, I asked them both the same question to kick off the interviews. If you could go back in time, knowing what you know now, and give the Cedar Rapids Kernels version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? 2018 Breakout Candidate: Stephen Gonsalves By Lenzy2108 Gonsalves' batted ball data in minors suggests that he is a flyball pitcher, which isn't a huge deal as Target Field is a pitchers park and...well...you know...Buxton/Rosario/Kepler. But what impressed me even a little more is that hitters don't hit him well. At levels where he made 15+ starts his LD% are as follows: 17.2% (2015 High A), 13% (2016 High A), 18.1% (2016 AA), and 19.2% (2016 AA) which are all below the MLB average of 21%. Admittedly, I know this is a little bit of apples and oranges using a MLB average to analyze minor league numbers, but I do think it gives you a gauge for where he's at. Again, Target Field tends to treat fly ball pitchers well especially with our defense...another positive sign that this could be his year. Prospects for 2018 By Physics Guy The 2018 Twins have significantly fewer holes than the 2013 squad. It was a challenge to come up with ten players who have a chance to debut and rank them according to their potential to help this year's team. All players on this list would be making their big league debut. Video of the Week Check out this sweet, sweet tater mashed by Twins pitcher Mudcat Grant in Game 6 of the 1965 World Series. Here's the Baseball-Reference box score for that game. eBay Item of the Week Speaking of the 1965 World Series, take a look at this beaut. This is a Red Wing Pottery commemorative ashtray. The current bid at the time of posting was $51, but that's sure to rise now that it's "as seen on on Twins Weekly." Quite the way to remember a great season ... I guess. Additional Links Prospect Retrospective: The Career Of Justin Morneau By John Sickels of Minor League Ball I also had a very enthusiastic report from a scout who called Morneau “a young Larry Walker.” I made sure to put him in the book, writing that “Morneau probably won’t stay at catcher because his mobility is limited, but he definitely has enough power to handle first base. He’s a long-term prospect and his grade (C+) reflects that, but I have a good gut feeling about him.” Twins front office brings in the brainpower By Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune The Twins have added 40-plus positions to the baseball department since Falvey took over and “several million dollars’’ to the staff payroll. They will be adding more jobs over the course of 2018. Should the Twins be worried about Fernando Rodney? By Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press Wednesday marked Rodney’s fourth outing for Escogido in the round-robin playoffs. Just one of those appearances has been scoreless, leaving Rodney with a 15.00 earned run average, six walks and four hits allowed through three innings. Highlights from the 2018 TwinsFest schedule By Maija Varda of Twinkie Town Twins top prospect Royce Lewis will kick off his first TwinsFest experience by being paired with Joe Mauer at an autograph table on Friday from 4:15 pm to 5:15 pm. Will Joe carry on Harmon Killebrew’s legacy by directly chastising Royce for illegible autographs, or will he just passively aggressively comment on how fast Royce signs his name? We all know it will be the latter. Minnesota Twins: 5 best middle infield duos in team history By Nate Palmer of Puckett’s Pond Unfortunately for the past decade or so of Twins baseball, we have often observed some less than stellar middle infields. Several of those middle infields we have experienced have been downright frustrating. A lot of the reason for that frustration begins and ends with the revolving door at shortstop. In fact, 2018 may mark the second time since 2005 that the Twins will have the same Opening Day shortstop as they did the previous year. (Please, please baseball gods don’t turn this into a jinx!) More Podcasts Baseball is Good Episode #31 Ryan Turnquist By Cory Englehardt Ryan is a huge MN sports fan and we will talk baseball, sports, growing up a sports fan and anything else that comes our way. Please give it a listen! MWS: Mike Berardino Reveals His Hall of Fame Ballot By Brandon Warne of Zone Coverage In this episode of Midwest Swing, Brandon catches up with Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) of the St. Paul Pioneer Press to reveal his Hall of Fame ballot. T&L Supershow ep. 53 By Twins and Losses This week Dan and Panda cover all of the recent MLB free agency moves, along with what the Twins have been up to. Then they take a trip to the local retirement home and break out #OldFriend Barry Campbell to talk about the Minnesota Wild, and answer a thousand fan questions that you sent in! Calling All Bloggers!!! One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when writing is figuring out just what the heck to write about. Well, here’s a topic to consider … What was your favorite Twins team? Not necessarily who you think was the best team ever, but which year do you have the fondest memories of or the strongest bond to? Just to be clear, this simply an idea I'm throwing out there to consider. Reminder: Anyone can start a blog at Twins Daily. If you're interested in being a regular writer for the site, the blog section is how you get your foot in the door. The only reason you're reading my words right now is because I started my own blog at Twins Daily. Calling All Readers!!! I don’t want to leave you out, either. If there's anything you'd love to read about next week, please let us know in the comments. OK, that does it. Enjoy TwinsFest and the Winter Meltdown if you're attending. Twins Weekly will continue to be posted every Friday morning at the site. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.
  21. 2012 AL Wild Card Game Baltimore Orioles 5, Texas Rangers 1 Yu Darvish faced off against Joe Saunders in the AL’s inaugural Wild Card game. Both clubs scored runs in the first frame as the starters worked out some kinks. From there, Darvish and Saunders pitched shutout baseball until the sixth. Adam Jones drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and Nate McLouth added an RBI single in the seventh. Former Twin Joe Nathan would allow two insurance runs in the ninth inning to bolster Baltimore’s lead. The Orioles relief trio of Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, and Jim Johnson did not allow a run over the final 3.1 innings. 2013 AL Wild Card Game Tampa Bay Rays 4, Cleveland Indians 0 Tampa Bay entered the AL’s second Wild Card game having already defeated the Texas Rangers in a tie-breaker game. Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb was outstanding on the mound as he recorded 6.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts. Cobb had missed 50 games during the regular season after taking a line-drive off his head. Former Twin Delmon Young homered in the third inning off rookie Danny Salazar. Desmond Jennings went 2-for-3 in the game with a double and two RBI. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney combined for 2.1 shutout innings to finish off the Indians. 2014 AL Wild Card Game Kansas City Royals 9, Oakland Athletics 8 (12 Innings) Royals fans were just getting a taste of a wild playoff run as the club would use this game as a launching pad for a run to the AL pennant. This game was originally touted as a pitching battle between Oakland’s Jon Lester and Kansas City’s James Shields but neither would see the end of this one. Former Twins Josh Willingham and Nick Punto made appearances in the game but wound up on the losing end. Kansas City scored three runs in the eighth inning and another in the ninth to tie the game. The A’s would take the lead in the top of the 12th inning but the Royals couldn’t be stopped. Big hits from Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez pushed the Royals to the ALDS. 2015 AL Wild Card Game Houston Astros 3, New York Yankees 0 The Astros, like the Twins this season, headed to New York City after multiple years of futility. Houston had averaged 104 losses in their previous four seasons. Dallas Keuchel was pitching on three days rest for the first time in his career and pitched masterfully. In six shutout innings, he scattered three hits and struck out seven. He became the first pitcher with a scoreless postseason start on three day’s rest since Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series. Colby Rasmus and former Twin Carlos Gomez homered to help the Astros win their first postseason game since the 2005 NLCS. Fans in New York were booing with every out in the late innings. Houston moved on to face Kansas City, the eventual World Series Champions. 2016 AL Wild Card Game Toronto Blue Jays 5, Baltimore Orioles 2 (11 Innings) Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off three-run home run sent Toronto fans home happy. While this game might be remembered for its ending, others might remember it for the moment when a fan threw a nearly full can of beer at Orioles left fielder Hyun Soo Kim while he caught a deep fly ball in the eighth inning. Jose Bautista smacked a solo home run to start the scoring in the second inning. Mark Trumbo hit a two-run shot to account for all of Baltimore’s offense. Orioles manager Buck Showalter opted not to use closer Zach Britton in extra-innings and that could have been the difference in the game. Ubaldo Jimenez gave up two singles and the big fly to end the game. Some important hits from former Twins and one upset at Yankee Stadium were all part of previous AL Wild Card games. Let's hope some of this history repeats itself on Tuesday night.
  22. It’s easy to look back at the deal that brought Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser to the Twins for A.J. Pierzynski as an obvious one to make. Joe Mauer was coming off a solid season between A and AA, and it was a foregone conclusion that he would take over behind the plate sooner rather than later. For that to happen, Pierzynski needed to clear out or change positions, and the latter wasn’t happening, so of course Ryan would deal him to clear space for Mauer. But while Mauer was hitting well in the minors -- particularly for his age level -- he wasn’t beating down the doors. As a 20 year old, he hit .338/.398/.434 including a stint in the Arizona Fall League; Pierzynski hit .312/.360/.464 in the majors that season, earning a deserved All-Star selection. And at 26, it isn’t as though Pierzynski was at the end of his career, or even at the end of his prime, so Ryan’s decision to move him after back-to-back great season could have backfired badly had Mauer not made the jump as well as he did. As it turned out, Ryan moved Pierzynski at the absolute peak of his value. While he remained a solid catcher through his age-38 season -- which shouldn’t be glossed over, that’s an incredible achievement -- he never returned to the All-Star Game and only twice put up above-average offensive numbers. In return for this desirable asset, Ryan got a once-prized prospect who had lost a bit of his luster (Bonser), a converted outfielder who was coming off back-to-back seasons of injury issues (Liriano), and a former shortstop who wasn't far removed from shoulder surgery himself (Nathan). A former first-round pick, Bonser had the pedigree to succeed, and (just like many of Ryan’s other finds) he did make contributions to the major league team, even if he was clearly the worst of the acquired players. He gave the 2006 Twins 18 starts and ended the year fractionally above average by ERA+ and with a 1.0 fWAR. Great? Hardly. But he was just 24, so it would have been a solid foundation for him to build on as he rose to being a mid-rotation piece...except that those 18 starts marked the best year of his career. Even if he wasn’t spectacularly bad, Bonser neither generated enough groundballs nor missed enough bats to make it in the majors and a torn labrum in 20009 ended his time with the Twins. Liriano’s arm had already been an issue when the Twins acquired him and it would continue to plague him throughout his career, though to his credit, he has continued to rehab and make it back to the majors every time he has gone under the knife. Still, his career would be typified by terms like “serviceable” and “solid” were it not for his unforgettable rookie season in 2006. His 2006 line is staggering: 3.6 fWAR, 1.00 WHIP, 2.16 ERA, and 10.71 K/9, but that actually undersells how good he was that year. Liriano wasn’t well-suited to pitching out of the bullpen, but that’s how he began the season (even recording a three-out save in a game which the Twins won by 10 runs, because of course he did) which included a three-inning relief appearance after the Tigers bombed Carlos Silva out of an April game. Liriano fared little better, giving up 5 ER in just 3 IP. Look at his numbers once he joined the rotation full time in May, and they’re even better: 1.92 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 112/28 K/BB ratio, and opposing hitters hit a pathetic .181/.244/.281 off of him. But the arm issues caught up to him once again. He threw just six innings after July 28 and would miss all of the 2007 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. His 2010 season showed glimpses of the form that had made him so unbelievably dominant in 2006, and the fact that he had 31 healthy starts means his counting stats look better, but he never did fully recover the form he had shown. He gave everyone a season to dream on and enough flashes of brilliance to bounce around the league for another decade and counting, but the consistent excellence he showed once seems to be part of his legend rather than his actual legacy. The Baseball Prospectus comment on Nathan prior to the 2003 season began “Nathan continued his comeback from shoulder surgery in 2000, with a year that was impressive only relative to the year before. He was never a great prospect, even before the shoulder woes, but he could be a serviceable innings-eater in middle relief.” Put another way: If you don’t have a player like this in your minor league system, the cupboard is so impossibly bare, it beggars belief. You don’t trade for players like this, they just appear on your AAA roster as if placed there by an occult hand. And to be fair, eating innings is exactly what Nathan did in 2003: His first year as a full-time reliever in the majors, Nathan appeared in just shy of half the Giants’ games, racking up 79 innings in 78 starts. Prior to the 2004 season, Prospectus noted that Nathan had looked leaps and bounds better the previous year than he ever had before -- and how right they were! -- but cautioned that this could be an aberration because it seemingly came out of nowhere. Here, too, they were right: 2003 was an aberration for Nathan, because for the decade following, he never again had a season as bad as 2003 when he was healthy for a full year. 2004 started with a closer-by-committee set-up with Nathan, Juan Rincon, and even a fleeting appearance from Joe Roa before he was relegated to mop-up duty, but by mid-April, the job was Nathan’s to lose. The next time someone besides Nathan would lead the team in saves was 2010, when Jon Rausch stepped in while Nathan was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Like Liriano, there were serious concerns about Nathan’s ability to stay healthy during his time in the minors, but after he moved to the bullpen, those concerns all but vanished. He finished his career with the eighth most saves of all time and appeared in the 54th most games. Of the three players acquired for Pierzynski following the 2003 season, Nathan had by far the best career; taking everyone involved in the deal, only Mauer has a claim at being a better player than Nathan. Whatever the Twins thought they were getting in Nathan, no matter how much Ryan and his staff believed that 2003 was indicative of what he could be, Nathan exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. He filled a hole that had existed since the end of Rick Aguilera’s second stint with the team (Mike Trombley notwithstanding) and held it down through some of the team’s best years post-1991. It’s fitting to see him end such a stellar career as a Twin. The Pierzynski-for-prospects deal is widely considered a heist, Ryan’s Robbery if you will. Some of that is due to Pierzysnki’s decline and some is due to Liriano’s apotheosis in 2006, but given that Bonser added almost nothing and Liriano was more frustration than fulfillment, the idea that the trade was as lopsided as it was confirms just how good Nathan was: If the deal had been a straight Nathan-for-Pierzynski swap, would the reviews be all that much less glowing?
  23. A sixth-round draft pick way back in 1995, Nathan broke into the big leagues as a starting pitcher. Making it with the organization that drafted him, Joe started 29 games through his first two big league seasons. He allowed more than his fair share of runs, strikeouts were hard to come by, and the free pass was all to frequent. There ended the starting career of Joe Nathan. What took place next could not have been predicted. The Giants called on Nathan for just over three innings in 2002, and while he pitched 79 in 2003, none of them were in a role that he would eventually come to know as home. San Francisco had tabbed Tim Worrell as their closer, and 38 of his 71 career saves came in that season. It wasn't until Nathan's path brought him to Minnesota that he got his chance. 125 games, and 270 innings into his major league career, Joe Nathan got his first save opportunity. He entered a 3-0 game against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field and shut down the Tribe. He completed that same feat 376 more times over the next 666 games in his career. From 2004-2011, Nathan recorded 260 of his saves with the Minnesota Twins. As the closer for Minnesota, he went to four All-Star Games, while receiving both MVP and Cy Young votes on two separate occasions. Despite big names like Rick Aguilera and Jeff Reardon before him, it's Nathan who owns the all-time Twins saves record. Being 140 clear of the next active player (Glen Perkins), that doesn't appear to be in jeopardy any time soon. Used in the most traditional sense of the role, Ron Gardenhire routinely ran Nathan out for the ninth inning knowing he had someone who could shut the opponent down. While he touched mid-to-upper 90's plenty, it was also a devastating slider that kept him one step ahead of opposing batters. Not the triple-digit threat a handful of today's closers have become, Nathan was as much overpowering as he was intuitive. Officially closing the door on his active career, Nathan leaves the game with the eighth most saves all time. His 377 are sandwiched between Dennis Eckersley and Jonathan Papelbon. Francisco Rodriguez, and his 437 saves are the only active tally higher than the Twins great's, and his 377 is more than 50 saves clear of the next competitor in Huston Street (324). When trying to find active players who could push for Nathan's numbers, you have to go all the way down to Craig Kimbrel (287) or Kenley Jansen (224). In knowing how they are used, closers will perhaps never get their due. While Mariano Rivera will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, Trevor Hoffman was not. Lee Smith will likely need the help of a future committee, and guys like K-Rod or Billy Wagner will likely always be on the outside looking in. As the game has evolved, the importance placed on the final three outs has changed. Leverage and situational usage of your best relievers has shifted, and the save has become a stat looked upon with a level of disdain. What's not possible however is to discredit what Joe Nathan did in a Twins uniform, or as a major leaguer in general. For just shy of a decade, Nathan was a premier reliever in all of baseball. He was as lockdown as they come, and he played a key role on some of the most fondly remembered Twins teams in franchise history. It's too bad he never got to play in a Championship Series, let alone a World Series, but he can hardly look back and not smile at what was accomplished. As Joe Nathan takes his first step off the diamond today as a retired baseball player, he will have nothing to look back on with regret. If most people hope for their one opportunity, Nathan lived multiple lifetime's full of them. We're watching one of the greatest in the history of the sport walk away, and for Twins fans, he'll get to do in it the greatest territory of them all, Twins Territory.
  24. The San Francisco Giants started Joe Nathan's professional baseball career by making him a sixth-round pick in the 1995 MLB Draft. Nathan played his high school and college career as a shortstop and he became only the second player ever selected out of Stony Brook University. It was a humble beginning for who would become one of baseball's all-time best closers. Nathan began his professional career as a 20-year old in Low-A. In 56 games, he hit .232/.320/.345 with 12 extra-base hits. He struggled on the defensive side of the ball by committing 26 errors in 252 chances (.897 fielding percentage). The Giants had seen enough, as this would be Nathan's lone professional season at shortstop. He would spend the 1996 season transitioning to the pitching mound. Transitioning To The Mound His pitching debut would come a full season later (1997) at the Low-A level where he split time as a starter and a relief pitcher. He posted a very good 2.47 ERA but his other numbers showed he was still transitioning to pitching. In 62 innings, he posted a 1.26 WHIP and only had 6.4 strikeouts per nine. There were positive signs but still plenty of areas for improvement. San Francisco envisioned Nathan as a starter and he spent the entire 1998 season in that role. His time at High-A saw him compile a 3.32 ERA with 1.21 WHIP. He had a 118 to 48 strikeout to walk ratio over 122 innings. After being promoted to Double-A, he struggled in four starts. He allowed 15 runs in 15.1 innings with 10 strikeouts and nine walks. He was almost a year and a half younger than the competition in the Texas League so the Giants still viewed him as a strong prospect. During the next season, Nathan spent more time at the big league level than in the minor leagues. At Double-A and Triple-A, he posted 4.32 ERA and struggled with a 1.39 WHIP. His MLB time wasn't much better as he allowed 42 runs in 90.1 innings (4.18 ERA). In 14 of his 19 appearances, he was used as a starter but he did finish two games and earn his first big league save. Broken Prospect There was still hope for Nathan's prospect status as the calendar turned to 2000. However, he would become a broken prospect over the next handful of seasons. By the end of 2001, he was a 26-year old coming off shoulder surgery with a 7.29 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. During this time he walked 70 and struck out just 54 in 108 innings. There were plenty of red flags surrounding him. These red flags wouldn't go away in 2002. Nathan was a year older at age-27 and he was a year removed from major shoulder surgery. He got hit around for a 5.60 ERA while walking 74 and striking out 117 in 146 innings. For his final two seasons at Triple-A, he was not a good pitcher and he was already in his late 20's. As a scout, this would not exactly scream that this was the type of pitcher a team should go after. Diamond In The Rough Luckily, the Twins saw something in Nathan that the Giants might have missed. During his last season in San Francisco, he played the entire year at the big league level, making 78 appearances out of the bullpen. He posted an ERA under 3.00 for the first time at any level since 1997. This was enough for Minnesota to consider him a potential closer and get him included in the trade for AJ Pierzynski. Bullpen pitchers can take a lot of routes to becoming effective big league players. Nathan's minor league journey was full of ups and downs before he transformed into one of the best relievers in baseball history.
  25. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Ep_185_Rosario_and_the_Iron_Door.mp3
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